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CofE schools branch out using Jesse trees this Advent

Date: 24 November 2016

Lyne and Longcross Jesse treeChildren from eight church schools in the diocese are being inspired by special theatre days that give them a ​new way of celebrating Advent.

​Each participating CofE school is structuring Advent around Jesus’ family tree – known as the Jesse tree in reference to the father of King David – which they explore initially through a day of creative drama led by Footprints Theatre Trust. Beginning at Creation, the performances trace Jesus’ family through the Old Testament, ending with His birth on Christmas Day, giving the children a clearer understanding of how Jesus’ birth is anticipated throughout the Bible and the significance of Christmas Day.

Demand for the theatre days was so high that three more needed to be added to the schedule.

Annabel Stocchetti, headteacher of St Mark’s CofE Primary School, Farnborough, said of their theatrical experience: “The children (and staff) were completely engaged and were immersed into rich, deep learning opportunities that enriched their understanding of important stories from the Bible. An amazing day that the whole school will hold dear in our hearts for a long time.”

Jane Dyer, headteacher at Ewhurst CofE Infants said: “We gained so much from the day. We will certainly use the concept of the Jesse tree to recall bible stories, and particularly Old Testament stories.”

Each school will now use their Jesse tree as an Advent calendar, decorated with ornaments representing relevant Bible stories or characters to be explored day-by-day in the lead up to Christmas. 

Jane Whittington, diocesan schools’ officer for Christian distinctiveness, RE and spiritual development, who attended the drama day at Lyne and Longcross CofE Infant School (see photo), commented:

“This overview of the whole Bible fits very well with the diocesan RE guidelines and current thinking in RE that underpins the Surrey and Hampshire agreed syllabi – and is a great demonstration of ‘nurturing education’, one of the 12 diocesan transformation goals. Over the four weeks of advent children read about kings and common people, about widows and children and brave fighters. Finally, we rejoice in Jesus birth.”

She added:

“It’s not too late for other schools to take part, even if they haven’t had the drama day. You can make or buy ornaments that fit with the part of the Bible studied each day and put them onto a simple tree as a form of Advent calendar. We have examples in the Resources Centre and there lots of ideas and templates online - just search on 'Jesse tree'.”

The ​traditional structure of a Jesse tree is:

Bible story

Bible reference



Genesis 1

The earth

Adam and Eve / Garden of Eden

Genesis 2:4 - 3:24

A tree with fruit / an apple

Noah and the flood

Genesis 6:9 - 9:17

A rainbow

God's promise to Abraham

Genesis 12:1-7 & 15:1-6

A tent


Genesis 22:1-18

A ram

Jacob's ladder

Genesis 28:10-19

A ladder

Joseph's coat

Genesis 37 & 50

A multi-coloured coat / robe


Exodus 2:1 - 4:20

A burning bush

Israelites and the Passover

Exodus 12:1-42

A lamb

The 10 Commandments

Exodus 19:1 - 20:20

Two stone tablets

Joshua and the fall of Jericho

Joshua 6:1-20

A ram's horn trumpet


Ruth (Whole Book)

A sheaf of corn

King David

1 Samuel 16:1-3

A six pointed 'Star of David'

Solomon's temple

1 Kings 6

The temple

Elijah and Baal's priests

1 Kings 18:16-39

A bonfire

Isaiah's 'Jesse' prophecy

Isaiah 11:1-11

A tree stump with a single branch

Jonah and the whale

Jonah (Whole Book)

A whale

John the Baptist

Matthew 3:13-17

A scallop shell


Luke 1:26-38

A white lily


Luke 1:39-56

A mother and child


Luke 1:57-80

A pencil and tablet


Matthew 1:19-25

A carpenter's hammer

The shepherds

Luke 2:8-20

A fluffy sheep

The Wisemen

Matthew 2:1-12

A gold star / the
three gifts / three crowns


Luke 2:1-8

A baby in a manger





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“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field;

it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

Matthew 13:31

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